The future of independent cinema won’t be decided in the next five days, but the American Film Market, which opens (virtual) on Monday and runs through Friday, could prove to be the stress test for models. independent cinema financing competitors. and dissemination.
Shifts in the independent industry – from large-scale theatrical releases to more online and cross-platform arcs, from traditional presales to international distributors to global buyouts by streamers and studios – have been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit traditional theatrical distribution, as theaters shut down and boosted streaming services around the world.
“COVID accelerated a development that was already happening in our business,” notes James Andrew Felts, CEO of Motion Picture Exchange (MPX). “The streaming wars, the battle between streaming and cinema, were inevitable. The big question now, upon entering AFM, is hell going to happen to the company? “
MPX is betting on a future for cinema. The Los Angeles-based production and sales group signed film selection agreements with several international distributors ahead of the AFM. Among them is a six film deal for Australia and New Zealand with Pinnacle which includes a horror thriller. Student Council, a three-film contract with the German flagship led by the thriller directed by James Eaves You might get lost and a list of eight films with Encripta for Latin America, which includes a musical drama from the 1980s Electric Jesus with Office alum Brian Baumgartner. A decade ago, that kind of low-budget independent tariff probably would have gone straight to Netflix, but, notes Felts, with global streamers spending billions on in-house originals, “they don’t really have a demand for a ton of music. ‘independent. content.”
If independent film is to survive, he argues, it must find a way to make cinema. “The challenge is figuring out how to monetize in this market,” he explains. “I think there are really some great distributors who are entrepreneurs, who are not going to sit idly by and let the pandemic or the streamers put them out of business.”
For large independent distributors around the world – such as Constantin and Leonine in Germany, StudioCanal de Vivendi in France, BF Distribution in South America or Toho in Japan – the challenge in this market will be to obtain a successful package from the small group offered. . With streaming companies funding the kind of projects that would have been big-ticket items in old AFMs, like Shawn Levy’s time travel actor The Adam project with Ryan Reynolds and Zoe Saldana or at Rian Johnson knives outside 2 starring Daniel Craig (both Netflix originals), independent distributors “are seeing fewer and fewer commercial projects,” says Nadezda Motina of Russian company Capella Film. “It has become very difficult for freelancers to set up big budget projects. We’ll have fewer headlines to consider [at AFM] and I guess if everyone is trying to get them, there will be bidding wars and a lot of these titles will go to a studio for the whole world.
Among the few featured titles offered with obvious commercial appeal are the AGC / ICM Partners / UTA Independent project. Freelance, an action comedy by Taken director Pierre Morel, who The suicide squad Actor John Cena turns to star Lionsgate’s runaway chase thriller Heaven Highway with Juliette Binoche and Morgan Freeman, as well as Cornerstone’s Mafia mom, a popular comedy by dusk director Catherine Hardwicke with Toni Collette and Monica Bellucci.
“I don’t think any of us can say that the classic presale or independent model is dead,” said Mark Gooder, Cornerstone co-director. “If you have a very clear business plan where all the elements fit together – concept, director and talent – you will always grab the market’s attention. But if the story is ultimately about a proof of concept, the need to see the movie to prove it’s worth, well, that’s a lot trickier.
Small budget titles but still very prestigious, the projects could be safer values for many international buyers. Among them, the biopic Lee, with Kate Winslet and Marion Cotillard, of Rocket Science, CAA and UTA on model turned war photographer Lee Miller, Vaclav Marhoul Mccarthy by HanWay and CAA, starring Michael Shannon as anti-Communist demagogue Senator Joseph McCarthy, and the abortion drama by Elizabeth Banks and Sigourney Weaver Call Jeanne of Protagonist and UTA.
“Because the selection of wide commercial films will be limited, we will be looking at more arthouse films or films on the line between art and advertising,” says Motina of Capella Film. “If you’ve got the right marketing hook and the right fit for your territory, arthouse films can be at the box office.”
It designates the Oscar-winning actor of Thomas Vinterberg Another round, a dramatic comedy about everyday alcohol. “I bought it as soon as I heard the pitch,” she says. “I knew an alcohol film would work for Russia.” She was right: Another round, released earlier this year, grossed nearly $ 1.5 million at the Russian box office.